Nation & World briefly
Gunman, 88, opens fire at crowded Holocaust Museum and kills guard before being shot himself
WASHINGTON (AP) – An elderly gunman, said by authorities to have a violent and virulently anti-Semitic past, stepped inside the crowded U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday, opened fire with a rifle and fatally wounded a security guard before being shot by other officers.
The assailant was hospitalized in critical condition, leaving behind a sprawling investigation by federal and local law enforcement and expressions of shock from the Israeli government and a prominent Muslim organization.
Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the gunman was “engaged by security guards immediately after entering the door” with a rifle. “The second he stepped into the building he began firing.”
Law enforcement officials said James Von Brunn, 88, a white supremacist, was under investigation in the shooting, and a second official said the elderly man’s car was found near the museum and tested for explosives. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss the investigation just beginning.
Museum officials identified the dead guard as Stephen T. Johns, a six-year veteran of the facility. In an e-mail, director Sara Bloomfield said he “died heroically in the line of duty.”
Administration rejects a strong hand in corporate pay, looks to shareholder pressure instead
WASHINGTON (AP) – Talking tough but stepping gently, the Obama administration rejected direct intervention in corporate pay decisions Wednesday even as officials argued that excessive compensation in the private sector contributed to the nation’s financial crisis.
Instead, the administration plans to seek legislation that would try to tame compensation through shareholder pressure and less management influence on pay decisions.
At the same time, the administration drew a sharp distinction between the overall corporate world and those institutions that have tapped the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program.
The administration is ready to issue new regulations governing pay at companies that receive TARP assistance, with the toughest restrictions aimed at recipients of “exceptional assistance,” such as Citigroup, Bank of America, General Motors and American International Group. The regulations, which follow legislation already passed by Congress, would limit top executives at publicly assisted firms to bonuses no greater than one-third of their annual salaries.
The administration has named Kenneth Feinberg, a lawyer who oversaw payments to families of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as a “special master” with power to reject pay plans he deems excessive at companies with the biggest injections of public money. Feinberg also would have authority to review compensation for the top 100 salaried employees at those firms.
Top Republican warns of ‘consequences’ if Democrats push too-swift confirmation of Sotomayor
WASHINGTON (AP) – Republicans accused Democrats Wednesday of moving too hastily on Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, warning that the decision could imperil her confirmation as they pressed the judge for more documents from her past.
The top Senate Republican blasted Democrats’ decision to schedule mid-July hearings for Sotomayor’s confirmation, while another senior GOP senator floated the possibility of a filibuster by angry Republicans against President Barack Obama’s first high court nominee.
“They want the shortest timeline in recent memory for someone with the longest judicial record in recent memory,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader. “This violates basic standards of fairness and it prevents senators from carrying out one of their most solemn duties.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said many Republicans may end up voting against Sotomayor because they feel they haven’t had time to learn enough about her. Others, he said, might decide to protest what they see as unfair treatment with stalling tactics in the Judiciary Committee or on the Senate floor to block her from being confirmed.
“I don’t think anybody wants to filibuster Judge Sotomayor – I certainly don’t want to – but sometimes the only way you can make sure things are fair … is to invoke some of the rules,” Hatch said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Judiciary Committee chairman, announced Tuesday that hearings would open July 13. That’s 48 days after President Barack Obama named Sotomayor for the high court.
Ahmadinejad lashes out at opponent during final campaign day ahead of Iran vote
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Iran’s hard-line president took a final shot at his rivals Wednesday during his last public pre-election rally, accusing them of resorting to a smear campaign against him similar to the one used by Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is locked in a neck-and-neck race against reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi. Both have launched intense political attacks against each other and have turned the presidential election into a display of Iran’s deep political divides.
Heightening the tension before the race, a top official of Iran’s hard-line elite Revolutionary Guards accused Ahmadinejad’s reformist opponents of seeking to launch a “velvet revolution” – alluding to the 1989 ouster of the Communist government of then-Czechoslovakia – and vowing to crush any such attempts.
Yadollah Javani said, in remarks published Wednesday on a Guards’ Web site, that reformists plan to claim vote rigging should their candidate lose in Friday’s vote and provoke street violence. He said the group is ready to deal with any possible post-election violence and crush opponents. Ahmadinejad is believed to have the support of some elements of the Revolutionary Guards.
The Iranian president and his main pro-reform opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, have accused each other using Hitler-like propaganda tactics in order to win on Friday. But the president’s harsh allegations against his rivals, including Mousavi, during Wednesday’s rally indicated that the mudslinging between the candidates was not slowing down.
AP NewsBreak: Neb. doctor says he’ll offer 3rd-term abortions in Kansas despite clinic closing
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – A Nebraska doctor said Wednesday that he will perform third-term abortions in Kansas after the slaying of abortion provider George Tiller, but declined to say whether his plans include opening a new facility or offering the procedure at an existing practice.
Dr. LeRoy Carhart declined to discuss his plans in detail during a telephone interview with The Associated Press, but insisted “there will be a place in Kansas for the later second- and the medically indicated third-trimester patients very soon.”
“I just think that until everything is in place, it’s something that doesn’t need to be talked about” in detail, Carhart said a day after Tiller’s family announced his Wichita clinic was permanently shutting its doors.
Tiller’s clinic was one of the only facilities in the country that performed third-trimester abortions.
Carhart has run his own clinic in Bellevue, Neb. since 1985, but had performed late-term abortions at Tiller’s clinic because of Nebraska’s more restrictive abortion laws.
Huckabee warns Republicans that conservative principles, not ‘mushy middle’ is way to win
OKOBOJI, Iowa (AP) – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee warned Republicans Wednesday against moving to the “mushy middle,” arguing that only clearly stated conservative policies can bring the party back to power.
Huckabee spoke during his second trip to Iowa since he won the 2008 Republican caucuses. That win was the high point of his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, which ultimately went to Arizona Sen. John McCain.
“I hear people who give advice that the Republicans need to moderate. They need to be a little more to the left,” Huckabee said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It sounds like advice that Democrats would give to us so that we’d never win another election ever.”
Some argue that Republicans have lost Congress and the White House because they’ve turned the party over to social and religious conservatives, driving away moderates and independents. Huckabee made precisely the opposite argument.
“It’s when they move to the mushy middle and get squishy that they get beat,” he said.
Judge wants answers: Government suffers setback in some US-Mexico border fence land cases
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) – Nearly six months after the U.S.-Mexico border fence ordered by the Bush administration was supposed to be finished, its completion is in limbo while a judge waits answers to questions about private property in the fence’s path.
About 630 miles of the promised 670-mile-long vehicle and pedestrian barrier is complete, with the unfinished portion in deep south Texas where opposition is fierce and the government has struggled to get the land it needs.
The biggest unfinished segment is a 13-mile stretch that runs east of Brownsville through rich farmland toward the Gulf of Mexico.
While the government has taken steps to smooth the project’s path – such as paying to relocate 300 native palm trees from a section near Brownsville – some of its promises are coming under intense scrutiny.
Government possession of several pieces of farmland needed for that final stretch was suspended last month by the judge.
Fed survey: recession eased, some regions report improved expectations for business activity
WASHINGTON (AP) – The economy’s sharp slide eased in the late spring and hopes for future business activity improved, suggesting that the worst of the recession has passed.
A Federal Reserve snapshot of economic conditions issued Wednesday found that five of the Fed’s 12 regions said the “downward trend is showing signs of moderating.”
In addition, “several” regions said their expectations of future business activity have improved, although they don’t see a “substantial increase” through the end of the year. In the last survey, several regions simply noted signs of some stability at low levels.
Altogether the assessments of businesses on the front lines of the economy appeared to be slightly better than those they provided in the previous report issued in mid-April.
Known as the Beige Book, the Fed survey is consistent with observations made by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and other central bank officials that the recession – which started in December 2007 and is now the longest since World War II – is loosening its strong hold on the economy.
Donald Trump to Miss California USA Carrie Prejean: You’re fired
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Miss California USA Carrie Prejean, who stirred up trouble for herself when she said gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry, got two dreaded words from pageant poobah Donald Trump on Wednesday: “You’re fired.”
Trump and other pageant leaders said Prejean was being sacked not because of the remarks but because she hadn’t been holding up her end of the agreement she signed when she entered the pageant.
“Carrie is a beautiful young woman and I wish her well as she pursues her other interests,” Trump said.
Prejean spokeswoman Melany Ethridge declined to comment, saying she hadn’t been able to reach the former beauty queen since the announcement of her ouster.
“This was a decision based solely on contract violations, including Ms. Prejean’s unwillingness to make appearances on behalf of the Miss California USA organization,” the California pageant’s executive director, Keith Lewis, said in a statement.
He had complained at a news conference last month that Prejean was skipping Miss California USA events while speaking out against gay marriage at unsanctioned appearances.